An increasing number of enterprises view robotic process automation (RPA) as the key lever to help them solve their cost and scalability challenges. Banks and insurance companies, for example, are finding they can deploy a relatively inexpensive software robot to perform the same rules-based and repeatable tasks a full-time employee does but do it 24 hours a day and with near-perfect accuracy. Full-time employees, then, are freed from “swivel chair” processes to take on more valuable tasks.
The recently published ISG Automation Index™ finds RPA reduces the resource needs of business units like Finance, Accounting and HR by as much as 37 percent. When applied to routine processes, such as billing, credit and collections, RPA increases productivity by more 43 percent. The report also found that nearly three quarters of IT and business leaders will leverage RPA in some form by 2019. ISG deal activity shows similar trends with RPA adoption increasing rapidly in both new and existing outsourcing deals.
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Given the ease of implementation and the increasingly compelling results of production pilots, enterprises are finding it easy to establish a footprint for small RPA initiatives within the organization. Often, when HR hears about the productivity gains Account Payable has achieved, for example, it is eager to test RPA as well. And HR also is likely to have a relatively simple and quick implementation.
However, as RPA grows, it can begin to take on characteristics of more traditional system implementation projects – at least from an operating model point of view – and force an enterprise to make more complex decisions related to deploying technology, managing organizational change and staffing, and meeting technical and performance standards. Especially in large organizations that want to rapidly deploy automation to achieve certain business goals, a growing appetite for RPA brings with it its own set of challenges.
For organizations looking to embed RPA broadly across business units, the answer can be found in implementing a well-planned RPA Center of Excellence (CoE). Here are the Top 5 key considerations:
- Set up an RPA team with well-defined roles and responsibilities. Identify an RPA sponsor, change manager, solution architects, developers, infrastructure and service support to take on key roles in the RPA CoE. The team needs to understand how to work well together – and with stakeholders – to deploy automation technology, adhere to standard processes and procedures, and measure business metrics and performance goals, including return on investment and customer satisfaction.
- Establish an RPA CoE Council. The RPA CoE Council is essentially a steering committee that provides overall governance and direction. It should meet regularly and include key representatives from the business, IT, Finance, audit, RPA CoE and others who will ensure the outcomes of RPA initiatives are in line with the objectives and expectations of executive management. The CoE Council should focus on driving RPA adoption across business units to create economies of scale and into the design and performance of the organization.
- Establish an effective governance model. As RPA deployment expands across an enterprise, the RPA CoE likely will face challenges related to cross-departmental collaboration. This requires a governance framework that determines participation and interaction among different departments and establishes protocols and prioritization for managing and sharing knowledge. The governance structure also should create a framework for developing and applying best practices to each stage of an RPA implementation.
- Proactively manage organizational change. Effective change management lays the groundwork for the successful transfer of work from humans to robots and is an essential but often overlooked part of the implementation process. The main challenge with RPA is that the change comes much faster than with traditional automation deployment – so the CoE needs to help drive operational planning, organizational redesign and before/after work process disposition.
- Collaborate with IT. As the RPA footprint expands across business units, IT support becomes increasingly important. The CoE should engage IT functions, including infrastructure, service/support, security and compliance. Many CoEs name an “IT liaison” to work directly with the CoE team to coordinate automation development so IT is in synch with security and compliance needs and to help resolve IT issues that may arise.